Abstract

Safety and efficient operation are imperative factors to offshore production sites and a main concern to all Oil & Gas companies. A promising solution to improve both safety and efficiency is to increase the level of automation on the platforms by introducing intelligent robotic systems. Robots can execute a wide variety of tasks in offshore environments, including monitoring and inspection, diagnosis and maintenance, process production intervention, and cargo transport operations.

In particular, considering the distance of offshore platforms from the Brazilian coast, such technology has great potential to increase safety by decreasing the number of onboard personnel, simplify logistics, and reduce operating costs of Brazilian facilities. The use of robots can also allow proactive integrity management and increase frequency and efficiency of platform inspection.

DORIS is a research project which endeavors to design and implement a mobile robot for remote supervision, diagnosis, and data acquisition on offshore facilities. The proposed system is composed of a rail-guided mobile robot capable of carrying different sensors through the inspected environment. The robot can also analyze sensor data and identify anomalies, such as intruders, abandoned objects, smoke, fire, and liquid leakage. The system is able to read valves and make machinery diagnosis as well.

To prove the viability of the proposed system, an initial prototype is developed using a Roomba robot with several onboard sensors and preliminary tests have been performed in a real environment similar to an offshore platform. The tests show that the robot is capable of indicating the presence or absence of objects in a video stream and mapping the local area with laser sensor data during motion. A second prototype has been built to test the DORIS mechanical design. This prototype is used to test concepts related to motion on a rail with straight, curved, horizontal, and vertical sections. Initial results support the proposed mechanical concept and its functionalities.

Introduction

During the last decade, several Oil & Gas companies, research groups, and academic communities have shown an increased interest in the use of robotic systems for operation of offshore facilities. Recent studies project a substantial decrease in the level of human operation and an increase in automation used on future offshore oil fields (Skourup and Pretlove, 2009).

Today, robotic systems are used mainly for subsea tasks, such as mapping the seabed and performing inspection tasks on underwater equipment, risers, or pipelines using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Topside operations, on the other hand, have not yet adopted robotized automation as a solution to inspection and operation tasks.

From (2010) points out the potential increase in efficiency and productivity with robot operators rather than humans, given that robots work 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, are less prone to errors, and are more reliable. Another highlighted point is the improvement Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) conditions, as robots can replace humans in tasks performed in unhealthy, hazardous, or confined areas.

In the specific Brazilian case, the Oil & Gas industry is growing at a high pace, mainly due to the recent discoveries of big oil fields in the pre-salt layer off the Brazilian coast. These oil reservoirs are located farther than 300 km from the shore and at depths of 5000 to 7000 km. These factors, especially the large distances, motivate the development of an offshore production system with a high degree of automation based on advanced robotics systems.

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